Religion & Culture | Astral travel: A journey towards intuition and creativity
Astral Travel, also called astral projection, is term used in esotericism to describe a wilful out-of-body experience, but for the most part, it's an involuntary experience.
It's based on the premise that attached to the physical body is the spiritual self, a subtle body that can be loosened and released during intense fasting, deep meditation and death.
The spiritual body can also be released during the 'hypnagogic' state that occurs between wakefulness and sleep, where visions and incredulous insights occur.
It can be disconcerting and frightening as we struggle to shake ourselves back to full consciousness. During hypnagogia, our auditory and visual sensitivity is heightened.
If we allow the process to run its course and we are not cowed, we are served with glimpses of the spiritual worlds, in particular, the astral world, where the reservoir of creativity and inspiration lies.
Some of the most brilliant artists have vouched for the munificence of this strange experience. Salvador Dali called it "the slumber with a key". It was instrumental to his imaginative work.
The author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, said, "I saw with eyes shut, but acute mental vision."
And dream researcher Michelle Carr describes the mind as "fluid and hyper-associative" during the hypnagogic state.
Interestingly, all of the great religions have acknowledged that consciousness can soar above the trappings of the physical body. In fact, there are multiple references to the separation of the spiritual and physical bodies, and the experiences of spiritual worlds.
Of the spiritual planes, Jesus said in John 14:12: "My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?"
In 2 Corinthians 12:2, we read: "I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who, 14 years ago, was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body, I do not know God knows. And I know that this man whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know, but God knows was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell."
Interestingly, the Prophet Muhammad, like Paul, left the earthly plane, his spiritual body experiencing the ecstasy of the heavens.
In the Quran, Surah 17, it is written: "Glory to (God) Who did take His Servant [Muhammad] for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque whose precincts we did bless, in order that we might show him some of our signs: for He is the one who heareth and seeth (all things)."
The astral plane is said to contain the Book of Life or the Akashic Records, a kind of archive where every deed of man is recorded. Renowned psychic Edgar Cayce travelled to this plane, where he received information on individuals and world events past, present and future.
The astral plane holds incredulous information that can be tapped for creativity, ingenuity and prescience.
Sometimes, we visit this plane in the dream state. When our dreams are lucid, vivid and richly colourful, we may have been experiencing the wonders of the astral plane. Here, communication is done through telepathy and one has the uncanny ability to absorb information in a manner that could only be imagined in the physical world.
The great philosophers, inventors, theologians and scientists, voluntarily or involuntarily, visited the astral plane.
Still, many misguided Christian and Muslim clerics inveigh against astral travel, conflating the experience with witchcraft and the occult.
Voluntarily performed, astral travel requires deep relaxation induced by special breathing techniques. Visualisation is also essential. After relaxing every limb, visualising the spiritual body leaving the physical body is the linchpin for success.
This requires patience, perseverance and steadfastness. Of note is that the risk of remaining in the astral world without ever returning to the body is zero. Only death will completely sever the silver cord that attaches the physical and spiritual bodies.
The allure of the astral world is well documented, but often, we have been warned to transcend this sphere and seek the higher 'rooms.'
Admittedly, attempting astral travel without the power of discernment or experience in the esoteric arts can be jeopardous. For all the good it has offered man, the astral world is neither the third nor seventh heaven. Those who voluntarily visit could well fall prey to some of its unscrupulous denizens. Novice, beware.
- Dr Glenville Ashby is the author of The Believers: Faith and Spiritism in the Caribbean Diaspora; now on Kindle; and Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity. Feedback:
firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @glenvilleashby